Enuff Z'nuff + Last Great Dreamers + Hellshed
Thursday 14th February 2019
Lounge 666, Camden, London
Halfway through February and I still hadn’t managed to get to any live music in 2019. This glaring omission from my recent past clearly needed to be rectified, and how better than with another visit to Camden to see three veteran Rock bands: headliners Enuff Z’Nuff ably supported by HellShed and the Last Great Dreamers. The gig was initially planned at the Underworld but, along with all other gigs planned at that venue over the last fortnight, was moved at short notice. The reasons for all these moves is unclear; there were rumours of some flooding following the downpours of early February, but no confirmation of this from the venue. Surely they’re not planning a secret refurbishment - smartening the Underworld up too much would threaten its status as an iconic dark and dingy Rock venue! Fortunately the gig wasn’t moved far, just a couple of hundred yards round the corner, to Lounge 666 in Kentish Town Road. Lounge 666 is not normally used by bands with the pedigree and following of Enuff Z’Nuff; it is much smaller than the Underworld, without a proper raised stage. The proximity of the bands definitely boosted the intimacy of their gigs: even those at the back felt part of the occasion; the front row were almost part of the band!
The evening’s live music was opened by HellShed. HellShed claim to hail from a shed in the middle of a forest near Rottenham in Suffolk, although rumour has it there’s also a strong Italian connection and their music is clearly influenced by the European Heavy Metal scene. However, the absence of drums in favour of the tambourine’s stately rhythm ensures that the heaviness never touches the sonic indulgence and sometime overbearingness of Metal, allowing these stone voiced sprites to summon their musical warnings from within and carve out their own Metallic musical identity. The band comprises three gnarled Blues musicians who call themselves Professor O.B. Scene (guitars and keyboards), Vicar Du Bruit (guitar, tambourine and support vocals) and Popa B.A.D. (lead vocals, guitar and tambourine). Their music was petroleum fuelled Blues-Rock, the kind popularised by ZZ Top, Seasick Steve and The Black Keys. It wasn’t nice, polished stadium Blues, it was down n’ dirty stuff and all-the better for it. Highlights included ‘Zombie Claw’, with its spooky, scratchy intro, gnarled guitar Blues riff and distorted lead vocals, and ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’, a straight up Blues Rock anthem.
HellShed were followed by the Last Great Dreamers, a band whose shimmering Glam style gives them a distinctly British take on power-Pop Rock. Initially formed as Silver Hearts way back in 1990, the Last Great Dreamers built a solid reputation in the mid-1990’s with formidable live performances and ‘Retrosexual’, their delicious Glam-tinged Punk debut album. Despite this early success, Last Great Dreamers struggled to make significant headway in the face of the all-pervading Britpop scene. Disillusioned, they ultimately decided to call it a day until, in 2014, original members Marc Valentine (lead vocals and guitar) and Slyder Smith (guitar and support vocals) united with a new rhythm section, Denley Slade (drums) and Steve Fielding (bass). The reformed band has toured incessantly and, over time, released three acclaimed new albums; their current tour is partly to promote the latest, ‘13th Floor Renegades’. As soon as the Last Great Dreamers entered Lounge 666’s stage, one disadvantage of the revised gig venue became apparent. Marc isn’t exactly the tallest vocalist in the world so, without a raised stage, and with the front row stood only inches away, it was difficult (impossible?) for the rest of the audience to see him, although the rise and fall of his bobbling trademark hat did make the occasional, brief appearance! No matter, far more important was that Marc’s terse, laconic vocals could be heard, easily and distinctly, as they reverberated around the small venue. The Last Great Dreamers’ set was an eclectic musical melting pot of Glam, Punk, Rock, Pop and even the odd hint of Psychedelia. Highlights included the singalong ‘White Light (Black Heart)’ and ‘Ash Tray Eyes’, an infectious melody with a set of lyrics designed to be sung out loud.
It was now time for headliner’s Enuff Z’Nuff, whose name requires an American pronunciation of the letter Z (zee, rather than the British zed). Originally formed in Chicago in 1984, Enuff Z’Nuff have released no less than 14 studio albums over the years. Their current tour is to help promote the latest, ‘Diamond Boy’. Co-founder Chip Z’Nuff (Gregory Rybarski) is now the only survivor from the original line-up. Initially bass guitarist, since 2016 he has also taken on the role of lead vocalist. In the current line-up, Chip is supported by Tory Stoffregen (lead guitar and backing vocals), Ultravox’s Tony Fennell (rhythm guitar, keyboards and backing vocals) and Dan Hill (drums). This line-up has been together and touring regularly for over two years and it shows: they form a tight knit unit of dedicated rockers who play well together and know that, above all, Rock should be fun. Lounge 666’s constricted environment limited the scope for Troy‘s trademark guitar theatricals, but it did facilitate interaction with the audience: Troy took full advantage by occasionally stepping right into the crowd, though how he found space to get through the tightly packed front rows is still beyond me! As always, Chip had entered the stage flamboyantly dressed, looking larger than life, with his big ass glasses and large cap. He leapt straight into ‘Metalheart’, a thumping number from the latest album. Two more songs from the new album followed (title track ‘Diamond Boy’ and ‘We’re All the Same’), interspersed with classics from Enuff Z’Nuff’s back catalogue. These included their two biggest hits: the power Psychedelic ballad ‘Fly High Michelle’ and the trippy ‘New Thing’. However, the audience had a wide age range and not everyone was familiar with these 80’s classics which, to be fair, were much bigger in the States than the UK. The only song everyone recognized immediately was an excellent cover of ‘The Jean Genie’.
All in all, a fabulous fun evening of varied Rock from three bands overflowing with experienced, skilled musicians. Anyone who missed it because of the clash with Valentine’s Day definitely missed out, but it was perhaps just as well that they did - the packed, intimate lounge at the revised venue couldn’t have taken many more!
Enuff Z’Nuff’s set list:
Kiss the Clown
Heaven Or Hell
In The Groove
The Jean Genie
Fly High Michelle
We’re All The Same
Dog On A Bone